“Carol, why aren’t you up yet? Get down here this instant!” Living at my grandmother’s place for a few months while in my teens, I had invited a girlfriend to spend the night. It was Saturday morning and not even close to noontime. But somehow my schedule did not please my beloved 75-year-old grandma. Jumping out of bed, we dressed and scrambled down the steep, narrow stairs of the century-old home. I doubt my friend ever dared visit me again.
As a Christian, I admit that sometimes I also want to rudely wake people who are sleeping in—spiritually. It’s getting late and I fear they will not awake soon enough to realize their peril in not understanding God’s love for them and their need to return that love. Will grabbing their shoulders and trying to shake them out of their spiritual stupor do any good?
For many people, waking up early is difficult, and Scripture admonishes us to be sensitive to their state. “If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse” (Proverbs 27:14). Many need to meet the day in a slow, ordered fashion, allowing their senses and minds to open to a new day. I am one of those people.
At seven each morning, my husband brings me a mug of hot, black tea, a banana and the newspaper, gives me a kiss, and retreats. I sit up, watch breaking news on my little TV, read some of the paper and then settle in with my Bible and prayer list. I am grateful that for years I have had the luxury of a flexible work schedule, not having to race out of the house early. It seems to me such a natural way to live—to wake up at a leisurely rate, like the sun that gradually appears over the horizon.
I recently read a touching story about awakening called “Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck. A dairy farmer would awaken his fifteen-year-old son, Rob, every morning at four a.m. so he could help with the milking. One day the growing boy overheard his dad tell his wife how much he regretted having to wake Rob so early, seeing he needed the sleep. When Rob heard these words, he later acknowledged that “something in him spoke: his father loved him!”
Overnight Rob’s milking duties became an occasion to love his dad back and he determined never to have to be called again. With much excitement in his young heart, he planned a Christmas day surprise for his dad: he would arise especially early and do the milking all by himself.
Fifty years later as a man, Rob came to this conclusion: “Love alone could awaken love.” That idea of love awakening love intrigues me. Waking people up the right way—with love—means calling them gently and kindly, with patience. As with little children, we must give them time to come out of the dullness of sleep. We want their day to begin beautifully, positively. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Spirit of God brought about the Great Awakening in the 1700s and at other times, His Truth is able to dawn on individuals in a minute version of those revivals.
Rob also said it occurred to him once he was a grown man that love for others was alive in him because long ago it had been born in him that cold December morning when he knew his own father loved him. In one Christmas hymn, we sing to Jesus, the Holy Child, “Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.” When Jesus Himself awakens us, we will be forever alive to serve Him willingly and gladly. For He Himself will live in us and promises to watch over us and never slumber nor sleep (Psalm 121:3). St. John of the Cross in Living Flame of Love expressed it so beautifully:
O how gently and how lovingly dost thou lie awake in the depth and centre of my soul, where thou in secret and in silence alone, as its sole Lord, abidest, not only as in Thine own house or in Thine own chamber, but also as within my own bosom, in close intimate union.
I heard speaker Bob Sjogen say he believes God sometimes blinds people spiritually, waiting to reveal Himself until a time when they will be ready to listen and to receive Him. Perhaps that explains why some people we pray for over many years do not seem to wake up to God’s salvation—at the time we want them to. God in His mercy desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4); He does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). God always has a right time for all things, just as He did for the death and resurrection of His own Son, Jesus.
Since reading Pearl Buck’s story, I think twice before I wake up my own adult sons when they are home. Love awakens love. It can enrich and warm relationships, even first thing in the morning. I also am praying that God will use me in this new year to awaken love in those I know, those who do not yet realize that Love came down at Christmas to be born in their hearts.